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Secret Societies in Clarinet History

Clar-Illuminati?

In addition to the abundance of clarinet history’s unsolved mysteries, there is also evidence of secret societies in clarinet history.

Most notably is Austrian clarinetist Anton Stadler (1752-1812), who is well-known as “Mozart’s clarinetist.”

Mozart and Stadler became good friends and were both fellow Freemasons during the latter half of the 18th century. There are many rumors, mysteries, and even conspiracy theories surrounding Freemasons, but at its core, Freemasons were (and continue to be) a fraternal organization with the goals of enlightenment for its members.

“Big deal, Mozart and Stadler hung out together in a fraternal group,” you might be thinking. You’re not wrong, but there are some interesting things to note.

First of all, it’s important to realize that 3 is a very significant number for Freemasons. (You can read more about reasons why here.) According to these CD liner notes, “E flat major is the fundamental key of Freemasonry; C minor is the symbol of death, while the pure key of C major (which has no key-signature) represents the resurrection of the enlightened man to the rank of Master.”

What does that have to do with Stadler? Well, you might recall that Mozart’s famous Clarinet Quintet K. 581 and Clarinet Concerto K. 622 (written for Stadler) are both in A major – with three sharps. We can go even further and hypothesize that the letter A has three sides – much like the Illuminati triangle. (Ok, now that’s a pretty big stretch.)

Which brings us to our next point – are Freemasons part of the Illuminati? Most experts say no, but that doesn’t stop conspiracy theorists from drawing their own conclusions.

Back to Stadler – he and Mozart eventually decided to create their own secret society called Die Grotte (The Grotto), and the two even drafted rules and ideas together shortly before Mozart’s death. According to this post, Mozart’s widow Constanze was left with this document, but it has since been lost to history. (Much like the mystery of Mozart’s missing manuscript to his clarinet concerto.)

Perhaps much of the mysteries of Die Grotte, Freemasons, and other organizations related to Mozart and Stadler have reached an elevated level of mystique due to Mozart’s larger-than-life reputation, which has only grown throughout history. Or maybe it’s foolish to expect answers from societies shrouded in secrecy. Whatever the reason, it is fun to imagine all the secrets to be found in clarinet history.

Here is an article with several links and resources if you’d like to learn more about Mozart, Stadler, and Freemasonry.

You might also be interested in my article about cryptograms in clarinet repertoire.